We Did It! Alimony Reform Becomes Law
Governor Patrick Signs Reform Law on September 26, 2011
The Mass Alimony Reform Law was a major achievement of thousands of people, all working together for five years.
Thank you to Steve Hitner for leading the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Group to this achievement.
Thank you to the core Board Members of the Mass Alimony Reform Group who volunteered their nights and weekends -- giving their creativity, energy, and ideas -- to organize and publicize the horror stories of lifetime-alimony payers and their second wives, to draft legislation, and to organize members and legislators.
Thank you to the members of the Mass Alimony Reform Group and the Second-Wives & Partners Group who made calls, sent e-mails and letters, and made visits to their Massachusetts Senators and Representatives. This Bill's passage is due to their willingness to speak to their representatives, to testify at Beacon Hill hearings with their horror stories, and to tell these stories to the press.
Thank you to Attorney Tim Taylor who drafted the early Alimony Reform bills, which moved the Joint Committee of the Judiciary to form the Alimony Reform Task Force.
Thank you to Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative Eugene L. O’Flaherty for setting up the Alimony Reform Task Force and to Senator Gale Candaras and Representative John Fernandes for leading the Task Force.
Thank you to the Alimony Reform Task Force, where each member donated their time and expertise to reconcile vastly different views to find the necessary compromises, which created a bill that could pass into law. The Task Force included:
- Senator Gale Candaras
- Representative John Fernandes
- Steve Hitner (President of Mass Alimony Reform)
- Attorney Ed Mahlowitz (Representing Mass Alimony Reform)
- Attorney David Lee (Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers)
- Attorney Kelly Leighton (Co-chair of the Boston Bar Association’s family law section)
- Attorney Denise Squillante (President of the Massachusetts Bar Association)
- Attorney Fern Frolin (Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and President-elect of the Massachusetts chapter of that organization)
- Attorney Rachel B. Biscardi (Director, Women's Bar Foundation's Family Law Project)
- Honorable Paula M. Carey (Chief Justice, Probate and Family Court Department)
Thank you to the 133 Massachusetts Senators and Representatives who sponsored the original Senate Bill S00665.
Thank you to the press for bringing the horror stories to the public's attention and for the editorials in support of alimony reform. Major articles, stories, and editorials are shown on the News and TV-Radio page. We want to especially thank:
- Elizabeth Benedict, who wrote the first Op-Ed, "The Chilling Effect of States Divorce Laws" in Boston
- Globe and many Op-Ed pieces in the Huffington Post
- Kris Frieswick, who wrote "Till Death Do Us Pay" in Boston Magazine
- Bella English, who wrote Years and marriages later, they still pay in the Boston Globe.
- Adrian Walker who wrote Alimony agony for The Boston Globe
- The Boston Globe Editorial, which wrote Alimony system needs reform, but Legislature drags its feet
- Jessica Fargen, The Boston Herald
- Margery Eagan, who wrote Antiquated law pure insanity for The Boston Herald
- Jennifer C. Braceras and Hillary Chabot, The Boston Herald
- Charla Bizios Stevens and Erin Harris, The Boston Herald
- George Donnelly and Lisa van der Pool, The Boston Business Journal
- The Lowell Sun Editorial, Alimony shouldn't be a life sentence
- David Riley, Metrowest Daily News
- Ashley Studley, Milford Daily News
- Matt Pilon, Worcester Business Journal
- Ted Daniel, Fox News 25
- Gene Lavanchy, Fox News 25
- Emily Rooney, WGBH Emily Rooney Show and WGBH Greater Boston
- Tom Finneran, WRKO Finneran's Forum
- Bill Fine: WCVB-TV President And General Manager, WCVB, Channel 5
- Tom Ashbrook, "On Point" on NPR and WBUR, Public Radio
- Robin Young, "Here and Now" on NPR and WBUR, Public Radio
- Chet Curtis, NECN
- Bax and O'Brien, WAQY Classic Rock
- Jennifer Levitz, who wrote, The New Art of Alimony for The Wall Street Journal
- William M. Buckley, The Wall Street Journal
- Abby Goodnough, The New York Times
- Alice Gomstyn, ABC NEWS Business Unit
- HDNET World Report, Divorce 2010: The Rise of "Manimony"
Alimony Reform Law Summary
- Alimony Term Limits
- Long term marriages (more than 20 years): Alimony will end at retirement age as defined by the Social Security Act.
- 5 years or less: Maximum Alimony term is 50% of the number of months of marriage.
- 10 years or less but greater than 5 years: Maximum Alimony term is 60% of the number of months of marriage.
- 15 years or less but greater than 10 years: Maximum Alimony term is 70% of the number of months of marriage.
- 20 years or less but greater than 15 years: Maximum Alimony term is 80% of the number of months of marriage.
- Other term limits apply for "Rehabilitative Alimony, "Reimbursement Alimony", and "Transitional Alimony".
- Second Wife's (Husband's) Income and Assets Excluded
"In the event of the payer’s remarriage, income and assets of the payer’s spouse shall not be considered in a re-determination of alimony in a modification action."
- Co-Habitation Suspends, Reduces, or Terminates Alimony
"General Term Alimony shall be suspended, reduced or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payer shows that the recipient has maintained a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least three months."
- Child Support: Gross Income is Excluded From Alimony
For purposes of setting an alimony order, the court shall exclude from its income calculation gross income which the court has already considered for setting a child support order..."
- Child Support: Alimony Term is Co-Terminus with Child Support
"Where the Court orders alimony concurrent with or subsequent to a child support order, the combined duration of alimony and child support shall not exceed the longer of: (i) the alimony duration available at the time of divorce; or (ii) rehabilitative alimony commencing upon the termination of child support. "
- Alimony Amount is Limited: "... the amount of alimony should generally not exceed the recipient’s need or 30 percent to 35 percent of the difference between the parties gross incomes established at the time of the order being issued."
- A Second Job or Overtime Income is Not Included in Alimony Modification: "Income from a second job or overtime work shall be presumed immaterial to alimony modification if:
- A party works more than a single full-time equivalent position; and
- The second job or overtime commenced after entry of the initial order."
- Payment of Health Insurance and/or Life Insurance Reduces Alimony Payment: In setting an initial alimony order, or in modifying an existing order, the court may deviate from duration and amount limits for General Term Alimony and Rehabilitative Alimony upon written findings that deviation is necessary. Grounds for deviation may include:
- Whether the payer spouse is providing health insurance and the cost of health insurance for the recipient spouse;
- Whether the payer spouse has been ordered to secure life insurance for the benefit of the recipient spouse and the cost of such insurance;
- Alimony Term Extensions Are Limited And Require Clear And Convincing Evidence: "The court may grant a recipient an extension of an existing alimony order for good cause shown. In granting extension, the court must enter written findings of:
- A material change of circumstance that occurred after entry of the alimony judgment; and
- Reasons for the extension that are supported by clear and convincing evidence.
- Alimony Ends with the Remarriage of the Alimony Recipient